Nesting in our minds

There has been a lot of growing in the last month.

Hand-stitched Dad has been volunteering with me, and it has been lovely to share that with him. He really is a natural with the girls, way more than I was when I started. I may have a keen eye for observing and knowing people, but I need to practice relaxing and being in the moment. This is where hand-stitched dad puts me to shame.  I’m learning a lot from him and I wish he would post more often, as he is an inspiration.

We regularly chat about adoption. It’s starting to feel more real to both of us, along with the feeling that we really do have a say in all of this! It’s okay to voice what we want, what we hope for… I know it sounds baffling and obvious, but, after years of having our choices and our confidence taken away by infertility, it’s taken a bit of an adjustment.

I would say that the biggest achievement in the last month has been my sense of self-acceptance. Self-knowledge is great, but what worth is knowledge if you can’t accept it? I have to battle through a lot of bad experiences to get to a place where I feel genuinely accepted (where I genuinely accept myself). I’m starting to feel that way, and it is really paying off in my social life.

I like to think of this as “nesting in my mind” … preparing an emotional home for my future child. It is naturally selfish, as I am the first one to benefit from having emotional well-being. But other people benefit, too. I make no apologies for the time I invest in improving myself. Reading adoption forums makes you feel like social workers will reject you for any sign of weakness. And yet, I can think of nothing worse for traumatised children than a pathologically narcissistic parent!

Successful adoptive parents really do have a beautiful balance of humility and courage. The demands are so high. No wonder so many feel so inadequate so frequently. I’ve been a prospective adopter for years now, and I have deep empathy for adoptive parents. I have learned so much about myself from their journeys and struggles.  I hope this translates to resilience.

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Believing in yourself

For a number of reasons, Hand-stitched Dad and I were not gifted with a substantial dollop of self-confidence. This comes out in different ways.

Hand-stitched Dad is more reserved, considerate, and deferential. That’s him, through and through. He’s like that when you meet him. He’s like that when you get to know him. He’s like that, when you’ve known him for years. I love Hand-stitched Dad‘s calming consistency and carefulness. Most people agree: he’s very likable, albeit quiet.

I have an altogether different sort of consistency.

When we first meet, I will be charming. Many adopters will recognise this sort of charming. It’s the charm of someone who is too scared to fight, who just wants us all to get along, who wants you to smile and move on, who wants you to believe this girl is stronger than she is. It’s the charm of someone who has spent more time getting to know other people than getting to know herself.

It’s the charming face of trauma.

As we approach our first home visit, our confidence quakes. I remind myself: before we submit ourselves to their judgment, we opened ourselves up to our own. Our story doesn’t begin and end with trauma.  We are more than our charming faces and vulnerable hearts.

I think, ‘What if they reject us?’ but the train of thought only ever comes back to disappointment in them, because I believe in us. I think of our deepest, darkest days, and I remember: we made it through them with dignity. We lived and we are better people for it. Yes, we are made of grief, more grief than most people our age hold. But we are made of more than grief.

If I can learn how to grieve and still love, so can our child. I  may not be the most careful or considerate person. I have a hundred holes, and I will never fit in. I’m displaced. I’m forever learning my limits. But this: parenting a traumatised child. This I can do.

The Blue Notebook and Big Emotions

Hand-stitched dad and I have a lot of big emotions around adopting.

  • Excitement for working even more closely together as parents.
  • Anticipation over who might join our family.
  • Frustration that so much is in the hands of other people.
  • Fear that we might be deemed ‘not good enough’ to be adoptive parents.
  • Anger at people for withholding or limiting support for adopted children.
  • Empathy for birth parents who struggle with the chaos of their lives.
  • Sadness over our shared losses: the children, their birth parents and us.
  • Admiration for the remarkable people who find security despite traumatic experiences.
  • Hope that we can be a family that belongs somewhere, together.

Amidst all these emotions (and more) are important details and decisions. So, I started a Blue Notebook as a communication record, filled with dates, names, phone numbers, and notes of conversations and meetings related to the adoption process.

As I told the social workers: unlike many people beginning this journey, we are not in a hurry. Adoption thrives on preparation. After spending the last few years in books, blogs and forums, we are starting to branch out into telephone calls, meetings, and visits. Once we apply to an agency, we will join a preparation group and meet other prospective adopters. We will have home study visits with a social worker (or two), who simultaneously educates and evaluates us. Then, when we all agree we are ready, we go to panel to be approved (or rejected) as adoptive parents.

I genuinely hope this takes time. I want time to build my confidence as a therapeutic parent. I want time to make decisions about what sort of children hand-stitched dad and I are best suited for. I want time to build new relationships with experienced adopters, with our chosen agency, and with other new families. We need time to manage all of the big emotions that are stirred up in this process.